On 9 June, Biogen Face of Fitness finalist Gloria Ngcobo will chase her back-to-back medal at Comrades 2024, which is an achievement coveted by novices to the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon.

Every year, over 20,000 passionate runners flock to KwaZulu-Natal to run a route between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, with the race direction alternating between the 87km up run starting from Durban and the 90km down run starting in Pietermaritzburg.

While the goal for most runners is to finish the race under the 12-hour cut-off, other runners aim to achieve a goal time, which earns them a specific medal:

  1. Gold medal: the first 10 men and women.
  2. Wally Hayward medal: 11th position to sub 6hrs 00min.
  3. Isavel Roche-Kelly medal (women only): 11th position to sub 7hrs 30min.
  4. Silver medal: 6hrs 00min to sub 7hrs 30min.
  5. Bill Rowan medal: 7hrs 30min to sub 9hrs 00min.
  6. Robert Mtshali medal: 9hr 00min to sub 10hrs 00min.
  7. Bronze medal: 10hrs 00min to sub 11hrs 00min.
  8. Vic Clapham medal: 11hrs 00min to sub 12hrs 00min.

But one honour every new Comrades runner can earn and covets is the back-to-back medal. Introduced in 2005, it is awarded to novice runners who complete a race in both directions in successive years.

READ MORE | A Spectator’s Guide To The Comrades Marathon

The running bug bites

Gloria only started running in 2023 as part of her “new year, new me” resolution. “I jumped into running with a 10km race, and boy, did I not die! I then started training with runners who were preparing for Comrades.”

Gloria’s enjoyment and passion for the sport grew as it creates positive mental space for her and allows her to focus on her fitness rather than obsessing over her physique. “I love that aspect of the sport!”

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Heading down

As her training progressed and her confidence grew, Gloria decided to enter the 2023 Comrades marathon. “The community and the challenge of achieving the goal drew me to the race.”

Running in the colours of Kearsney Striders, Gloria overcame the toughest physical challenge of her life to earn her first finisher’s medal.

My first Comrades marathon was life-changing. Enduring through the pain and succeeding created so much growth for me. Running has changed my life in so many ways. It has shown me how capable I am and taught me to back myself and peruse my heart’s desires.”

With that as her motivation, Gloria will line-up again in 2024 alongside 20,000 runners as they journey from Durban to Pietermaritzburg on the daunting up run.

Completing my first up run and chasing my back-to-back medal means more growth for me, which is why I committed to achieving this ambitious goal.”

READ MORE | 5 Reasons To Start Running

Getting to the start line

Im preparation, Gloria does two 10km training runs during the week and a longer run of 20km or more on weekends, with a serious ramp up in weekly mileage as race day approaches.

Since completing her first 10km race, Gloria has come to love the distance. “It’s just enough to get me going without those voices in my head asking, why am I doing this?”

She has since gotten her PB down to an impressive 54 minutes, which she ranks alongside her Comrades down run finisher’s medal as her greatest running achievement.

I follow the training plan provided by the Comrades marathon when you enter, and combine this with strength and electro muscle stimulation (EMS) training to strengthen my legs, rehab an old knee injury and reduce my risk of future injuries.”

Gloria also includes upper body strength training to maintain balance in her physique and give her weary legs some rest.

READ MORE | Tete Does The Comrades Double For Biogen-Backed Team Nedbank

Fuelled for success

Gloria fuels her training with a diet that contains lots of protein to support recovery and carbohydrates for energy.

She supports her diet with a comprehensive supplement plan that includes a range of Biogen health and sports performance products, using Biogen Carbogen to carbo load before races and Biogen Electrolyte+ to support optimal hydration and Biogen Cytogen for energy during training and races.

Biogen Carbogen carbo loader is my favourite supplement. It’s a slow-releasing fuel that sustains me as if I ate a meal, I love it!,” says Gloria.

Gloria’s daily Biogen supplement stack:

Running wisdom

Since starting her running journey, Gloria has learnt a few things from her training and races and the runners she meets along the way.

The important factors to successful running is getting sufficient rest and increasing your mileage slowly,” she explains.

However, the most important lesson I’ve learnt is to literally just do it! I ran my first race in lifestyle sneakers because I didn’t have running shoes. Had I allowed that to stop me from running that race, I wouldn’t have started my journey to a back-to-back Comrades medal! So, just start with whatever you have and don’t let the excuses keep you from achieving your goals.”